Point: Elena Kadvany
Vice President Joe Biden set a refreshing standard for the rest of the debates. He was feisty, firm, genuine, personal — and even more presidential than President Barack Obama.
Rep. Paul Ryan did not bomb the debate or make any ridiculous comments that will damage the Romney campaign. He did just fine. But that was the difference between him and Biden. Where Ryan seemingly stuck faithfully to a script chock-full of recycled campaign talking points, Biden was organic and believable. Where Ryan repeated criticism of Obama’s failed administration, Biden delivered a rare dose of honesty by admitting that there have been negative comments made during the election season that he regrets.
The difference between Biden’s and Ryan’s closing remarks reaffirmed Biden as the winner of tonight’s debate. Ryan might as well have been reading from a teleprompter. Biden returned to the infamous 47 percent gaffe, defending his and Obama’s unwavering commitment to the 47 percent, to the people, to leveling the playing field. He made this incredibly personal, citing his own mother and father as members of that 47 percent.
Biden ended with a simplistic, yet deeply meaningful comment: “And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled … until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, “Honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. That’s what this is all about.”
That is what this is all about. The importance of Biden’s honesty and emotion cannot be understated. For even the most adamant of Obama supporters, that feeling of genuine excitement about a candidate as a person and leader has faded. Tonight, Biden restored that sense of excitement.
Counterpoint: Sarah Cueva
Vice President Joe Biden has substantially more experience in the political realm, but relative newbie Rep. Paul Ryan came out on top in the vice presidential debate tonight. Not only did Ryan stick to concrete numbers and outline how a Romney-Ryan administration would differ from a second Obama-Biden stint in the White House, he also maintained a calmer and more presidential demeanor than the notoriously hotheaded Biden.
Sitting at Centre College in Danville, Ky., debate moderator Martha Raddatz started the duel with a pointed question regarding the Libya attack exactly one month ago. Beginning with this issue automatically put Biden on the defensive, as he scrambled to dismiss the Obama administration’s mishandling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack and refocused the dialogue on such positives as the assassination of Osama bin Laden under President Barack Obama.
Biden was expected to have the edge in terms of foreign policy, especially given Ryan’s lack of experience in that arena. But Ryan’s clear outlining of where the Romney administration would fall — on everything from nuclear proliferation in Iran to troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — strengthened his image as a leader who would be capable of making tough decisions under extreme pressure.
This is not to say that Ryan was perfect in the debate. Much of what he said came across as rehearsed and forced. When asked about the specifics of the Romney-Ryan “five-point plan,” Ryan stuck to platitudes about cutting taxes and strengthening small business. Biden, however, did not offer a much better alternative in terms of facts, and he failed to adequately defend the Obama administration’s handling of the economy over the last four years.
Throughout most of the night, Biden acted the opposite of how a respectable vice president should in a political debate: scoffing at Ryan’s arguments, laughing and shaking his head when he heard something he disagreed with. Such behavior made him seem threatened by Ryan, even though Biden’s arguments themselves were coherent and impassioned.
Ryan came out on top with strong knowledge of foreign policy and unwavering stances on domestic policy. Though Biden is unquestionably more experienced politically, he failed to assert his dominance as the smarter choice for vice president.